Libby Payne, moderate-priced misses and juniors dress designer for 50 years (1936-1986) died Dec. 19, 1997 after a battle with breast cancer. Although not a household name, she was well-known within the garment industry for her designs with legendary dress companies like Bobbie Brooks, Toni Edwards, Parade and the Betty Barclay, Butte Knit and Bleeker Street divisions of Johnathan Logan. She was known as a designer who dressed "Mrs. Main Street America" with style and taste. Libby created clothes that drew compliments to the woman wearing the dress, rather than the design itself. Libby was also known as a classy lady who commuted on the LIRR in an elegant hat.
Upon her retirement, Libby and her husband, Frank, plunged enthusiastically into genealogical research, tracing both their families through four centuries of American history. They wrote their life stories as a legacy to their family. Libby wrote of her birth in Cuba to Baptist missionaries from Virginia. When her family returned to the US, they followed her minister father to congregations across the south, resulting in her familiar explanation of her childhood, "I had every grade in a different town." She also wrote of her college years in the Speech School at Northwestern University, followed by bluffing her way into dress designing, after she heard, in those Depression Years, that "Fashion designers made $100 per week." The book details the poignant wedding, separation and reunion of Frank and Libby during WWII and their move to New York in the late '40s. In recent years, Libby enjoyed living in a three-generation household, actively involved in the lives of her two grandchildren.
She was the cherished wife of Frank J. Payne for 56 loving years. They lived in the Flower Hill section of Roslyn in the house they built together in 1950. She is remembered with love by Frank, her daughter Penny Payne Olson and husband Michael Olson, and by her daughter Holly English-Payne, husband James H. McLaughlin, and her grandchildren Devon and Morgan McLaughlin. She is fondly remembered by her sister Barbarita Miller Holzhacker and her brothers William Bricen Miller and Rylan Duke Miller.
She was buried with a simple ceremony at Locust Valley Cemetery on Dec. 22. A "Celebration of Libby's Life" was held Sunday, Jan. 11 at 3 p.m. at the Congregational Church of Manhasset, 1845 Northern Boulevard on Long Island. In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made in the name of Libby Payne to: Hospice Care Network, 900 Merchants Concourse, Westbury, NY 11590.